Easter Season Reflections: Joanne Denovio
Stay Home. Stay Safe.
I am not a homebody. On any given day if you came to my house, most likely I would not be there. I have always tended to overcommit myself, saying yes to too many things and at times feeling a little overwhelmed with the life I was living. Those who I have lived with over the years have gotten used to my hectic schedule. When my daughter was just a toddler, she woke up from a nap, looked up at me and said; “Where me going next Mommy?” Wow…She got my attention! Thirty years later I remember it vividly. I made the mistake of sharing this with my mother and for many years when she witnessed my busy life I would hear “Where me going next Mommy?” and we would laugh. I have slowed down a little over the years but even now the Stay at Home COVID 19 order has proven to be a very difficult one for me. It has stopped me in my tracks and at times brought me to my knees with fear. But this is not new for me. There have been other times when my life has been halted by a situation beyond my control and fear took over. My cancer diagnosis, terminal illness and death of loved ones, a lost job, all created the same familiar feeling of fear. During these difficult times in our lives, we can’t see ahead to know what may happen to us but we can decide what happens in us. In this time of fear and uncertainty we are being called to accept the powerlessness we feel fighting this “invisible enemy” and to recognize the power that is ours to receive. We can take care of ourselves and consciously place ourselves in God’s care.
During this pandemic, many of us are being asked to transition from humans “doing” to humans “being.” Stay home, stay safe is what we are told. But how do we do this? It’s not easy especially for someone like me who is a “doer” but after more than 30 days into this order I find that my typical routine everyday has changed from doing things in the outer world to spending more time focused in my inner world. I found that I can use this time to really slow down, sit down, find a quiet place and rest in solitude. St Teresa of Calcutta had this calling to the quiet after she felt God tell her: “Oh, how gladly would I speak to many souls! But the world makes so much noise in their hearts that they cannot hear My voice. Would that they might retire a little from the world.”
We are now all retired from the world that we were accustomed to and in many respects the world is a much quieter place. The streets in big cities are empty. Many businesses, restaurants and schools are silent yet our hearts are still filled with noise. We worry about this invisible enemy, our future, finances, our kids, our loved ones, especially those loved ones in a nursing home, hospitalized, sick or far away from us. There are so many more reasons to drown out the voice of God. So how do we silence this noise? If we study the life of saints, many felt an overwhelming desire to leave the noise and distractions of the world to be with God. Jesus often retreated to a quiet place to silence His heart and be with His Father. He “dismissed the multitude and went to a mountain to pray.” (Matt 14:23) We too can go to a place to be alone with God in the quiet. Jesus tells us “when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret.” (Matt 6:6 ) There we can find the peace Jesus promised the disciples the night before he died “ Peace I leave you; my peace I give you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid” (John 14:27). This Spirit of peace dwells in our heart, our inner room. If your heart is full of noise, seek the silence and recollect your spirit. Pray, ask for help, for peace, and focus on hope. Hope can bring us out of fear during the dark times. It helps us to look forward and trust that things will work out. It requires us to trust in a God that only wants good for us and will be there in the storms of life. Proverbs 3:5 assures us “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” This is a time when I don’t understand and I can get pulled so deeply into fear that hope escapes me. It helps me to remember this acronym for hope.
Hang On Pain Ends.
During any difficult journey we can hang on to what we know and what we see. God is with us. He joins us in our sadness, fear and despair. Yes, He is with us and He is visible. God walks with us on this road. But just like the disciples on the road to Emmaus, we might miss the presence of God because we are so focused on the pain of this time. If we look for the good that happens in any difficult situation we get glimpses of how God works. Fred Rogers tells children;
“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”
During this Covid 19 crisis I see God in the helpers: • the health care workers and first responders who risk their lives for others • the nurse who holds the dying patients hand • the essential workers who are providing for us • the friends who call to check in on me • my family and friends who tell me how much they miss me • Fr. Pat, all our parish staff and ministers who keep us connected to our faith
There are so many more examples of how God is fighting this invisible enemy with visible friends keeping us safe and lifting our spirits. I encourage you to look for the helpers in your life and you will see how God is hard at work.
I am still left asking when will this end? When will we be together again?
For me, one of the hardest part of this crisis is that my daughter lives and works in DC. I don’t know when or how I will be able to see her and touch her again. And if she gets sick, I worry that she is so far away. I can get stuck in my fear but I have learned that the only way I find peace and quiet the noise is by going back to my safe place. I can rest in the arms of God and know that my daughter is also safe in His arms. I can do what I always have done when I have been in pain and feel that my life is out of my control. I can go to a quiet place, center on the spirit of peace that I find in me and pray for her. Prayer is my powerful weapon. It has always worked for me. I pray and trust that all will be well. No matter what happens, I know I always have that safe place to go to find peace and a safe place to fall… in the arms of God. I will continue to do what I have always done for her, just pray, knowing that God is holding her close while we are apart. And my heart is quiet and happy when I think of the day when we are reunited and how much we will appreciate how it feels to be together again. Hope keeps me looking forward to that day.
All of us look to the day when we can be together again with family, friends and our parish community. There is truth in the saying: “absence makes the heart grow fonder.” While we wait, I hope you come to see the call to Stay Home and Stay Safe as a call from God to be home with Him and know that you are safe in His care.
‘Tear your heart away from everything else; then seek God and you will surely find Him” St Teresa of Avila